Archives February 2009

Future Planning Board Work Sessions

The Montgomery County Planning Board does much of its work on the White Flint Sector Plan in “work sessions.” These work sessions generally have a topic, which is presented by one or more speakers, and then the Board discusses the topic with the White Flint Steering Committee.

The next work session is scheduled for March 5, 2009, and will feature a discussion of various development proposals for the Sector.

Today Nkosi Yearwood, of the Planning Board staff, announced that additional work sessions are tentatively scheduled for March 19, April 9 and April 23. Times and topics will be announced later.

Barnaby Zall

Next White Flint Meeting: March 5

The next meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board to discuss the White Flint Sector Plan will be held on March 5, at 9AM in Silver Spring, 8787 Georgia Ave.

The topic will be land use, and the focus will be on individual development project proposals. Just like during the Advisory Group meetings, developers and their representatives will present their ideas and argue how each is better than: a) the status quo, and b) everybody else’s idea.

Barnaby Zall

New Costs and New Tax Revenues from the Sector Plan:

Live blogged from the Steering Group’s meeting with Planning Board staffer and economics/financing wizard Jacob Sesker (mostly Sesker’s comments, with a few questions and comments interspersed): 

Private implementation costs, public implementation costs, and mixed costs, called “district” costs.

Rockville Pike is about $66 million, Streets another $61 million.  The majority of the district roads are in the middle of the sector plan. The majority of the costs in the analysis are infrastructure, and infrastructure is generally “roads.” If the plan ends up with some additional costs (perhaps involving transit), those costs would have to be directed into this analysis separately and the model might change. But the reason for talking about transportation costs is because of the proposal to suspend certain other transportation impact models (such as PAMR). The earlier economic analysis by the Developer Collaborative did include other matters, including storm water management and utilities relocation underground. The developers are including these improvements in their plans, but some of these are off any of these sites, and benefit more than one site. These are contended to be burdens which should be included in the analysis. And the private sector road building is much less expensive than the assumptions in the analysis.

Total value of new development in the White Flint plan = almost $11 Billion. Both the County and private economic analyses come up with roughly similar additional value amounts.

New tax revenues over life of the Plan = another $1.1 Billion in new taxes, over and above existing value today. These are revenues which the county otherwise wouldn’t be getting, even if the revenues are generally spent in the Sector Plan area in support of the proposed improvements. If we don’t have a mechanism to provide for these improvements, we won’t see them, and will see a lot more “place-holder”-type activities which don’t raise revenues or provide community benefits.

Special tax assessments are predicted in the analyses. What is the mechanism for the county to do this? Either a taxpayer voter (80% approval under current law), or levy the amount over the existing Metro Station Policy Area. Need the revenues from new development to pay for the required infrastructure. Bond holders will want to see specific dollar income mechanisms; so analyses build in projections of various scenarios of these special tax assessments. Assessments would be only on commercial uses, but would apply to both new and existing commercial uses.

Gap financing to cover bonds in the early years, and when all three phases of development bonds are in effect simultaneously. County estimated the gap would be 10%; private estimate was 6%.

Issues: 1) should new residential development make a payment to the district that is equivalent to the current transportation impact tax for residential development? Appendix suggests that it should.

2) Should the current transportation impact tax (or equivalent payment by new commercial development) be eliminated or reduced for the White Flint Sector Plan? Appendix suggests yes, to avoid disincentives for development.

3) Should the private portion of district financing come from a special tax assessment on all new and existing infrastructure? Appendix suggests yes, because of the recurring and regular income stream to borrow against.

4) Should the special taxassessment on all new and existing commercial uses be estalished at a rate equal to 10% above and beyond the current ad valorem real property tax bill?

5) should incremental public sector revenues be used to fill the financing gap? Appendix suggests yes. because what are the alternatives, and to speed up the pace of development.

Barnaby Zall

Theme for the Night: What’s Doable?

So, the Cliff Notes version of the Financing Appendix? Here’s 40 pages of possible ways to pay for all the infrastructure and improvements in the Sector Plan, but there are really only a few that are realistic. We want to talk about what is do-able.

 Next Planning Board Work Session is Feb. 23. Topic will be Design Guidelines. The Design Guidelines are an integral part of the White Flint Sector Plan.

Barnaby Zall

Friends of White Flint Summary

A member of the White Flint Steering Committee raised a question about participating in the FLOG vs. joining Friends of White Flint. Here is my response:

FoWF is a Maryland non-profit organization, which I started in September 2007. It is separate from the Planning Board’s White Flint Steering Committee. It has an all-volunteer Board of Directors consisting of Evan Goldman, Suzanne Hudson, Ken Hurdle, Greg Trimmer, and me. Evan, Suzanne and I are co-Chairs.

As explained on our website,, FoWF is dedicated to implementing the Goal and Vision adopted by the Advisory Group. As a non-governmental organization, FoWF supplements the work of the new Steering Committee in educating the public and promoting green, transit-oriented improvements in the White Flint area.

FoWF’s biggest activity at the moment is the FLOG – the Friends of White Flint Blog. You can read the FLOG without joining it, but to post or comment you will need to register. Last I checked, on some days, the FLOG gets over 60 users. You can access the FLOG through the FoWF website:, or you can bookmark it and go directly once you have read the simple Rules. Instructions for participating are listed on the website.

Anyone can join Friends of White Flint as a “Friend.” Being a Friend is different from participating in the FLOG, and registering for the FLOG does not make you a Friend. Joining as a Friend is currently free, but we may ask for contributions later. To join as a Friend, just contact me or any of the Directors. The biggest advantage of being a Friend is that your FLOG status is upgraded so a moderator does not need to approve your posts, but we extend the same courtesy to all members of the Steering Committee, whether or not they join FoWF as Friends.

Barnaby Zall

Next Steering Committee Meeting: Money

The next meeting of the White Flint Steering Committee will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 7PM in the Silver Spring auditorium of the MNCPPC. Jacob Sesker, “Planner/Coordinator (Explore/Research)” will discuss the new White Flint Planning: Financing appendix to the White Flint Sector Plan Public Hearing Draft.

More information is available, including the Financing Appendix and a cover memo explaining the Appendix, in the new Steering Committee Section of the White Flint Planning page:

Barnaby Zall

Friends of White Flint Elects New Directors

The Friends of White Flint are pleased to announce that today the Board of Directors unanimously elected two new members to the Board of Directors:

Ken Hurdle, a resident of Luxmanor, and a member of the White Flint Steering Committee; and

Greg Trimmer, from JBG, who has been active in the Steering Committee meetings.

Congratulations to both, and welcome to our Board!

Barnaby Zall

Is PAMR accurate or useful?

The Policy Area Mobility Review (PAMR) process is used by the Montgomery County Council to calculate a balance between transit and auto congestion. Extensive discussion of what PAMR means for planning purposes. “So is this even useful for us?”

Well, Dan Hardy still uses it.

Barnaby Zall